Strangeways – Complete Recordings Volume 1 (1985 – 1994)

26th May 2022 0 By George Simpson

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away in the 1980’s, the ruling musical empire was that of melodic rock. Whilst the likes of Journey, Foreigner and Bon Jovi went on to see a million faces and rock them all, there are many more bands who so nearly did the same, but narrowly missed. British rockers Strangeways being one such band, who promised much, but never quite hit the heights.

Like their class of the mid eighties alumni such as FM, they took classic British rock, and added a heavy stateside influence, and in the process released a string of AOR albums, that have attained a cult status in the intervening years. This box set features their first four albums, and when listening to it, you feel like you have opened a time capsule from your past. Whilst each album falls under the AOR umbrella, you can hear the changing musical landscape with each one. It makes for an interesting trip down memory lane.   

What will be of interest to collectors here, is a raft of bonus tracks, including live recordings, B sides and demo’s. As with most of these sort of extras, they probably don’t mean much to the casual listener,  but will be the biggest attraction here to existing fans.


Their self titled debut appeared in1985. Produced by heavyweight melodic producer Kevin Elson of Journey and Mr Big fame, its a hook laden collection of tracks, with keyboards as prominent as guitars. The line up at the time comprised of brothers Ian and David Stewart on guitar and bass respectively, drummer Jim Drummond and vocalist Tony Liddell. Glance down the track listing and you’ll almost immediately know how it sounds, radio friendly melodic rock, with chorus’s that you can pull the imaginary lavatory chain to whilst singing them. Indeed, each song here could easily be the soundtrack to a montage scene in any given Molly Ringwald film. Breakin’ Down The Barriers sounds like a hit single of the time in all but reality. See if you can listen to the intro to More Than Promises without thinking of Marillion‘s Assasing..I couldn’t. 

Having replaced Liddell with American singer Terry Brock for 1987’s Native Sons, they delivered arguably their finest hour. This was an album perfect for the time. Guitar and synth’s in perfect harmony. The result is a harder sounding album, though still undeniably melodic, with it’s target firmly set on the mainstream radio audience. Probably more of a Beverly Hills Cop montage soundtrack rather Pretty In Pink this time. The Stand out tracks for me here being the Dance With Somebody and Stand Up And Shout.

Looking back at the sort of bands playing very similar music at the time, and selling truckloads of records doing so, you could argue that Strangeways biggest problem was that they were British. Like FM‘s Indiscreet and Tough It Out, it’s an album that could’ve and should’ve achieved much greater commercial success. Undoubtedly, the melodic pond was packed with American swimmers, with only Def Leppard finding any space for the Brits. It certainly wasn’t a quality issue holding them back. 

The same line up released 1989’s Walk In Fire. However, despite once again sticking with their tried and trusted melodic formula, it doesn’t quite hit the heights of the previous album. The sound is a little tougher still, as was the order of the day. Despite tentatively trying to beef up the sound further, it does sound like a band starting to repeat itself. And, with hindsight, the sound of a band starting to run out of musical steam a bit. At the time, the musical boat for this sort of music had certainly started to leave the harbour as it were.  It’s not a bad album, it’s just not very memorable to my ears. 

Their fourth album, And The Horse, arrived in 1994,  and this is where this box set really gets interesting. Ian Stewart had taken over lead vocals, and the melodic AOR direction had departed with Terry Brock. The rock and metal world had been shaken to its core by the double whammy of grunge and Metallica‘s Black Album bringing heavy metal into the mainstream. Melodic rock was a popular as a fart in a spacesuit. However, this resulted in Strangeways cutting loose and delivering their strongest album to my ears. The music is much more bluesy, with added helpings of Jazz and even a progressive feel thrown into the pot to create an enjoyable musical brew.


The highlight of the album for me is the nine minute progressive Some Of Us Lie. Here, they sound like later years Pink Floyd on a sprawling laid back epic that is light years away from their previous albums. They sound like a band finally playing the music they want to, after years of chasing a dream down a one way street. That’s not a bad AOR lyric if i say so myself! Similarly the album opens the bluesy Precious Time, which tells you from the opening note that this is a different band to the previous three albums. As a result, this makes it the best of the four albums on offer here for me. 

These sort of box sets are great for a trip down memory lane. You look back to where the music was at the time, and think about where you yourself was. I used to lap up stuff like the first couple of albums here. But as time goes on you discover more and move on. If my former self were to review the box, the albums would get very different appraisals. But being as it’s 21st century me sat here,  I’d say Native Sons and And The Horse are well worth a listen, and save the other two for fleeting moments of nostalgia. 

Score: 7/10


Disc One Strangeways (1985)
1. The Kid Needs Love
2. Hold Back Your Love
3. Close To The Edge
4. Heartbreak Zone
5. Cry Out
6. Power Play
7. Breakin’ Down The Barriers
8. Now It’s Gone
9. More Than Promises
10. Hold Tight
Bonus Tracks
11. All The Wrong Reasons (Demo)
12. Hold On (Demo)
13. Close To The Edge (Demo)
14. Breakin’ Down The Barriers (Demo)
15. Streets On Fire (Demo)

Disc Two: Native Sons (1987)
1. Dance With Somebody
2. Only A Fool
3. So Far Away
4. Where Do We Go From Here
5. Goodnight LA
6. Empty Streets
7. Stand Up And Shout
8. Shake The Seven
9. Never Gonna Lose It
10. Face To Face
Bonus Tracks
11. Stand Up And Shout / Breaking Down The Barriers (Live)
12. Dance With Somebody (Live)
13. Never Gonna Lose It (Live)
14. Only A Fool (Single Edit)
15. Goodnight LA (Single Edit)
16. Dance With Somebody (AOR Mix)

Disc Three: Walk Into The Fire (1989)
1. Where Are They Now
2. Danger In Your Eyes
3. Love Lies Dying
4. Every Time You Cry
5. Talk To Me
6. Living In The Danger Zone
7. Modern World
8. Into The Night
9. Walk In The Fire
10. After The Hurt Is Gone
Bonus Tracks
11. Jackie’s Gone (Demo)
12. Big Tom (Demo)
13. Liberty (Demo)
14. The Last Chance (Demo)
15. So Far Away (Live)
16. Where Do We Go From Here (Live)

Disc Four: And The Horse (1994)
1. Precious Time
2. Mans Maker
3. Out Of The Blue
4. Through The Wire
5. The Great Awakening
6. Wonder How
7. Head On
8. Some Of Us Lie
9. Over You
10. On

Label:  HNE Recordings

Release Date: May 27th 2022

For all things Strangeways, click HERE and to purchase the album, click HERE

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